Monday, August 27, 2012

From Scratching: DIY Canning

While I am a somewhat adventurous home cook, there are a few things that I am simply terrified of. For example, I have a huge fear of broiling because after all, broiling is basically a controlled burn. I have nurtured a fear of canning for many years. This fear was so strong that it survived a successful batch of raspberry jam. 

However my recent involvement with Toronto's Not Far From The Tree has forced me to overcome this fear. I have been on a plum pick, apple picks, and even a grape pick. It's been a ton of fun and is a really good organization to get involved with.  

The @NFFTT bike and picker poles.
My DIY guide to canning:

One gigantic pot
One huge pot
Canning jars and new lids
Jar lifter

1. Sanitize the jars by boiling them in water for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, keep them in the hot water until ready to use.
2. Start cooking the ingredients for jam. Test for jell by dipping a metal spoon in the jam and placing in the freezer for a few minutes. This cools down the mixture quickly so that you will be able to tell how thick the jam will set to.
3. When the jam is almost set, throw the lids and rings into the pot with the jars. 
4. Remove one jar from the gigantic pot. Fill with jam. Wipe the rim of spilt jam. Remove one lid and ring from the jar. Place on the jar and finger tighten.
5. Repeat step 4 until you run out of jars.
6. Turn up the heat on the gigantic pot. Place the filled jars back into the pot. Once the water returns to a boil start the timer for amount the recipe calls for.
7. Remove jars from water. The jars should start to pop sealed within a few minutes. Once the jars have sealed remove the rings. Let cool completely before storing.

The main things I have learnt through the last few weeks of canning is:
a. don't remove the rings and lids from the hot water until immediatly before you place them on the jar
b. don't remove the ring from the jar until the jar seals

My seal rate greatly increased after I started to follow these two things!

Another thing to note is that the jar lifter is not required for jars that are 125 mL in size. These tiny jars can be lifted with tongs even when they are full of jam. So if you aren't sure if you are going to continue canning you could skip buying the $8 dollar jar tongs. There are packages of canning equipment for $15 that include jar tongs, tongs, magnetic lid lifter, funnel, and jar opener. I feel like the jar tongs are the only required item but the magnetic lid lifter would be nice to have.

Disclaimer: I am not a food scientist or an expert canner. There are a lot of safety concerns with canning and I urge you to do your own research regarding canning. The above DIY guide is simply meant to illustrate how simple the premise of canning is. I hold the view that the industrial food complex requires (and likes) us to be scared and sceptical of our food. However, if jam smells like jam and tastes like jam it probably IS jam. Overall, we should not be scared of food that we source and cook ourselves. It's important to trust your own senses and common sense.  

No comments:

Post a Comment